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Abortion bill bounces back

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Bishop Thomas Msusa

Slightly over two months after Parliament shot down the tabling of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, the legislation is expected to bounce back in the august House today.

The Daily Times has gathered that a Private Member’s motion to introduce the bill has been appearing on Parliament’s Order Paper— the official business document of Parliament—alongside other Private Member’s motions.

If the motion passes this time around, the bill is expected to be introduced in the House by Chiradzulu West lawmaker Matthews Ngwale, who is also Health Committee of Parliament Chairperson.

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“The Honourable Member for Chiradzulu West to move: That having noted that the Malawi Penal Code allows for the termination of a pregnancy only if the life of a mother is at risk and observing that there are an ever-increasing number of justifiable situations for the termination of unwanted pregnancies which have not been covered by existing laws, this House grants leave to the Honourable Member for Chiradzulu West to introduce a Private Member’s Bill, Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which, when passed by this House, would expand grounds for safe abortion,” the motion reads.

Ngwale was not immediately available for comment yesterday but Episcopal Conference of Malawi Secretary- General Father Henry Saindi yesterday expressed confidence that the bill would be shot down again if tabled in the House.

“It is about defending the unborn child. We are confident that members of Parliament appreciate the sanctity of life and would not allow such a bill.

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“Much as lawmakers have the freedom to bring issues they feel are crucial to be tabled and passed in the House, we remain confident that this bill will be shot down again,” Saindi said.

Currently, the law only allows medical doctors to carry out an abortion when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother but the bill is asking Parliament to authorise other circumstances for carrying out an abortion including on pregnancies that come as a result of rape and incest.

Speaking in March when the motion to table the bill was shot down, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said the move was a clear statement that Malawians did not want even to discuss the bill.

“The bill has been coming to Parliament for the past eight months and, today, members of Parliament have overwhelmingly said they don’t even want to discuss it. The good thing is that even members of the opposition agreed that the bill should not be discussed,” Chimwendo Banda told reporters.

Coincidentally, he said this after Chitipa South Constituency lawmaker Werani Chilenga had moved a motion to allow the same Ngwale to table the bill.

However, when the motion to table the bill was brought to the floor, lawmakers shouted a resounding no to the proposal to table it.

Mwanza Central legislator Nicholas Dausi hailed parliamentarians for shooting down the bill and preserving the sacredness of life.

Last year, the country’s religious leaders— under the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Muslim Association of Malawi, Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Malawi— spoke vehemently against the proposed Bill to increase the number of reasons for abortion.

Leader of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Thomas Msusa, said human life is sacred because God created people in His own image and likeness.

“We read in Jeremiah 1:5 that, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you. As such, human life must be preserved and protected with extreme care from conception,” Msusa said.

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